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Reimagining Corporate Social Responsibility Through Sustainability

The Evolution of Ethical Business Practices

Throughout history, the foundation of many ethical business cultures has been built on the ideals of nurturing lasting customer connections, recognizing employee contributions, and contributing to the communities they serve. This traditional view of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is commendable for various reasons, yet it has also fostered a notion that there are limitations to what can be achieved.

photo of architectural concrete stairs with a tree in the middle
Photo by @alexabero Alexander Abero on Unsplash

Recently, we took one of our clients through the AGC Sustainability Purpose Strategy Program. A well-reputed family firm in the third generation, this company had a difficult dilemma:

  • As a distributor and not a manufacturer of an essential, petroleum-based product, how could they find a way to work with sustainability that would energize, rather than leave their people discouraged by the many things they could not see they would be able to change?

The Dual Nature of Lubricants and Sustainability

Lubricant is an interesting thing. On the one hand, the product is almost exclusively associated with petroleum-based oils. On the other hand, this fluid is what enables machinery to operate well. As such, lubricants remind us that sustainability is also about practices of good maintenance and care. 

person changing oil of a car
Image by freepik

Guiding the team to revisit their roots led to an intriguing development:

Individuals who had previously felt powerless began to recall instances and discussions where they had been invited to care. Interestingly, the feeling of helplessness wasn’t confined to their perceived smallness; it was a sentiment also echoed by their far more powerful supplier. What emerged was a realization of the potential to build conversations and collaborative practices with their supplier and customers that would bring to new life the heritage of care.

In other words, what emerged was the ability to forge ahead with sustainability, empowered by values firmly rooted in the company's past. 

Engage with Your Sustainability Purpose

person holding a compass in front of pine trees
Photo by @jamie452 Jamie Street on Unsplash

People are empowered when they connect with a compelling reason to care. 

Have you and your people found a compelling reason to care?

How did you do so?

How is this reflected in your sustainability purpose?


Learn more about our AGC LIVE program! This program focuses on how practitioners can purposefully lead sustainability work and meaningfully drive team engagement.


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